FOR GEELONG, this was about as sweet as they come.
Not only did its 38-point dismantling of Richmond keep the club on pace with the Western Bulldogs at the summit of the AFL ladder, but it also put the biggest dent in the reigning premiers' flag hopes to date.
Having failed at the final hurdle against the same opposition in last year's Grand Final, the utterly dominant 15.5 (95) to 8.9 (57) victory had that extra edge. Where the Cats might have otherwise taken the foot off the pedal in any other game, in this one they kept it planted firmly to the floor.
CATS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
Geelong's stretch of 10 wins from its last 11 games started with a 63-point win over Richmond back at the start of May. Few in between have been so routine, with key forward duo Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea combining for eight goals to put the Tigers to the sword.
Patrick Dangerfield also continued his hot recent run of form, winning 28 disposals, seven tackles, seven clearances and kicking a goal in what was both a statement performance individually and collectively. Cam Guthrie, so often his midfield partner in crime, finished with 34 touches and seven clearances of his own.
Despite the scoreline, Richmond had toiled away admirably. Jayden Short (26 disposals, eight marks) was effective from half-back, while Jack Ross (25 disposals, nine marks) was combative through the midfield.
But a fifth loss from six matches has the Tigers heading in the opposite trajectory to the rampant Cats. Set to end the weekend outside of the top-eight yet again, simply making it to September will be an achievement in itself from here.
Even still, Richmond's application – if not its quality – had actually been apparent from the start. Ryan Mansell's desperate chase-down tackle saved a certain Dangerfield goal at one end and led to Jack Riewoldt's early major at the other, which was evident of the Tigers' work rate in the game's opening stages.
However, it came amid a period where Geelong kicked three of the contest's first four goals to open a 10-point lead at quarter-time. In contrast to their opponents, with Dangerfield's missed chance aside, the Cats were making the most of their limited opportunities in an otherwise scrappy display.
That provided Geelong with the perfect platform. As scoring continued to prove difficult, five consecutive goals to begin the second quarter turned a handy buffer into a significant one. The lead ballooned to 41 points by the main break, with the Cats converting control on the scoreboard to control in every aspect of the game.
A few nerves might have developed when Jason Castagna and Jake Aarts pulled back two quick majors to start the second half. But another pinpoint Hawkins shot from deep inside the pocket, this one his fourth for the afternoon, eased any tension.
Instead, the biggest Geelong concern might have been from the bench. Having copped a corked quad in the initial stages of the contest, skipper Joel Selwood battled until midway through the third quarter. Ultimately, he succumbed to the blow and medical sub Quinton Narkle was introduced.
That didn't stop any of the Cats' momentum, though. Ratugolea's second major, right on the stroke of the three-quarter time siren, extended their lead back to 38 points at the final change and proved a dagger to any Tiger hopes of a comeback.
Ratugolea added two more to his tally in the fourth as the margin continued to climb and Richmond's issues continued to be compounded. Its run of three flags in four years and its mantle as the game's best is on the cusp of coming to an end. Geelong might very well be the team to claim that title from them.
Corked quad troubles key Cat
The only Geelong concern stemming from Sunday's fixture was a corked quad to courageous captain Joel Selwood. Having copped the blow early in the first quarter, the veteran battled until midway through the third term before finally succumbing to the nasty blow. Selwood had ice applied to the injury and was substituted out for Quinton Narkle. Richmond wasn't without its own injury dramas either, with important midfielder Shane Edwards spending a fair portion of the first term in the rooms having treatment on his troublesome left ankle. Edwards returned, though, and played out the game.
Cats backline keeps Tigers at bay … again
Geelong's defensive system was as dominant and as effective as ever on Sunday. This time, it was Richmond's time to feel the pain. For a third straight week – having also achieved a similar feat against Carlton and Fremantle – Tom Stewart, Lachie Henderson, Jack Henry and co. kept their opposition to just one goal at half-time. It took Richmond 20 minutes into the first quarter to find the target through Jack Riewoldt, then close to another 40 minutes before Jason Castagna got the side's next major. In between was a goalless term in the second quarter, where Geelong kicked five unanswered goals to set up its victory.
Hawk kickstarts Cats' dominance
Geelong taught Richmond a lesson in efficiency in the second quarter, as it put the hammer down to race clear of its flag rivals. Tom Hawkins was involved in everything as the Cats stretched their lead from 10 points at the first break to 41 points by half-time. He kicked two goals for the term and had three to the half, as Chris Scott's side managed eight scoring shots from just 13 inside-50s in their most dominant quarter of the game. At the other end, the Tigers failed to find a major as their fifth loss in six matches quickly became inevitable.
GEELONG 3.0 8.3 10.3 15.5 (95)
RICHMOND 1.2 1.4 3.7 8.9 (57)
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Ratugolea 4, Miers, Stanley, Dangerfield, Rohan, Narkle, Close, Parfitt
Richmond: Aarts 2, Riewoldt 2, Castagna, Lynch, Cotchin, Lambert
Geelong: Dangerfield, Hawkins, Guthrie, Ratugolea, Stewart, Smith, Stanley
Richmond: Short, Rioli, Ross, Mansell, Parker
Geelong: Selwood (quad)
Geelong: Narkle (replaced Selwood)
Richmond: Caddy (unused)
Crowd: 0 at the MCG